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The day my father agreed to testify against Terrence Randall, one of the most ruthless drug traffickers in North America, was the day I became the target of the drug lord’s enraged vengeance. I was the one thing that stood in the way of Daddy’s testimony, and the one thing that could save Randall. The man would stop at nothing to get his hands on me.
I was prepared for what was coming — as prepared as one could be when vanishing into the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection Program.
I just wasn’t prepared for him.
For ex-Navy SEAL turned mercenary Lake Freeman, escorting Lily Cross into the Witness Protection Program was just another job — until a better offer came along. Lake couldn’t have cared less about the life he’d been hired to protect. After all, she was a part of the very organization that had cost him so much already.
At least he never expected to care.
But when forced into a decision he never thought he’d have to make, the mission became one of survival for himself and his beautiful charge. Lake knew that in order to protect her, he’d need to bring the feisty and unpredictable Lily to heel — he couldn't keep her safe if he couldn't keep her under control.
But that protective urge quickly turned into something else, something dark ... and his need to conquer, to claim, overrode all else.
He would keep her safe. He would keep her protected. But he would make her his, as well.
Now, all he had to do was figure out how to keep them both alive long enough to do it...
Publisher's Warning: Intended for mature readers. 18 and over only!
This is a MF BDSM **dark** romantic suspense. If dark romance is not for you, then you should pass this one by.
Themes include: graphic sexuality, pervasive D/s, exhibitionism, spanking, bondage, anal play and other BDSM activities. If such content might offend you, please do not purchase this book.
It had happened, the cops had finally caught up with him.
Emanuel J. Cross, drug dealer to the wealthy, privileged addicts of high society, my father, had been arrested. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
“Christ!” I said, watching the spectacle on TV. Daddy in handcuffs, walking between two men, the entire block cordoned off, reporters pouring over the yellow police tape to get a close-up of him in this, his grandest hour.
But they didn’t know the half of it. “Ma’am, we need to go.” I turned to the door. “Get out,” I snapped. I wasn’t even going to try to be sweet. My father had
arranged things neatly for himself, and, apparently, for me. The arrest would be very public, we knew that. Couldn’t exactly take one half of the two-man force that kept the entirety of the East Coast supplied with their drug of choice without some noise. But I found out yesterday that Daddy had made a deal with the feds months ago when they’d first caught up with him. Testify against Randall, his business partner and the one they wanted badly enough to make a deal with the likes of my father, enter into the Witness Protection Program, and live out his days in quiet suburbia in the middle of nowhere. Become a nobody. It was a different sort of prison really. Although I suppose federal prison would be worse. But what I was most pissed about was that I, too, had been given fifteen minutes to pack my essentials and leave my New York City apartment — my beloved apartment — with exactly one suitcase, and disappear right along with my father!
Yes, of course I understood what could happen to me if I was to refuse protection. Randall would do anything he could to keep my father quiet, and what surer way than through his one weakness: me.
“Ma’am.” The man ducked his head into my room again and it took all I had not to kick the door shut right on his stubby, red nose.
“How do you expect me to pack up my life in fifteen minutes? Get out!” I turned my back on him.
“That’s no way to speak to the officer, Ms. Cross.” I stilled instantly, a chill running along my spine. “I got this. We’ll be ready to go in one minute,” the same man said. I faced him as he closed my bedroom door. I have to admit, it took me a minute to recover myself. This guy was tall. I’m not short, just
average at 5’5”, so he must have been 6’5” at least, with dark hair and darker eyes, eyes that made me pause. Under any other circumstances, I would have reacted differently, but not today. Not when my life was falling apart around me.
I cleared my throat. “Who the hell are you?”
He smiled and made no secret of looking me over from head to toe. I narrowed my eyes and did the same. At this point, most men would have tripped over themselves with some stupid comment, but he didn’t. Instead, when I met his gaze again, he looked at me straight on, one side of his mouth curling
didn’t. Instead, when I met his gaze again, he looked at me straight on, one side of his mouth curling
upwards into a tiny smirk. “I’m Lake Freeman. Your father hired me to look after you. I’ll be your personal bodyguard until
we get you settled and safe.” “I don’t need a personal bodyguard,” I said, my tone ice. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a
room full of assholes out there who think they’re my personal bodyguards.” “I’d appreciate if you could watch your language, Ms. Cross. It’s no way for a young lady to
speak.” My mouth fell open. I had no comeback. Really, he was offended by my language? Lake glanced at the half-packed suitcase on the bed and walked over to it, his boots heavy on the
hardwood floor. He pushed the lid down and zipped it up. “Hey, I wasn’t done packing.” I took a step toward it, realizing I still held a blouse in my hand. “Yes, you were,” he said, his tone final. I reached to unzip it but he grabbed hold of my wrist. And he wasn’t gentle. “Get your hands off
me! What do you think you’re doing?” “I’m saving your ass, princess,” he said, his expression deadly serious. He picked up the suitcase
while keeping hold of my wrist. “Let’s go.” “Just a minute,” I protested, pulling back. He paused and turned toward me, making a show of checking his watch. “How do I know you work for my father anyway?” “Good girl,” he said, releasing my wrist and smiling. “He said you might ask. It’s Velveteen
Rabbit, your safe code.” I stared at him. How long had it been since I’d heard my dad read me that story? My mom had run out on us when I wasn’t even a year old. I had no memory of her. My dad and I
had been close all my life, so with all this crap that was happening, as tough as I tried to act, I was scared. I was scared for him and for me. And I guess he and I both knew all along that something like this could happen.
Ever since I was little, my dad and I had a secret code and that was it: The Velveteen Rabbit. It was my favorite book. He’d read it to me every night for a year and I still had my well-worn copy of it. I knew if ever someone said they’d been sent by my dad, they’d know those words. It hadn’t come up before, and I didn’t expect it to at twenty-four years old either. But there it was. My dad was still taking care of me from wherever he happened to be at the moment.
“We have to go,” Lake said, this time he sounded almost nice.
I nodded once and looked away. I didn’t want him to see the tears in my eyes and I didn’t want him to know I was scared.
The pictures didn’t do her justice. Not one bit.
He’d memorized them, of course, until he knew every line of her delicate face, the large brown eyes, the long, wavy black hair, the rich olive tone of her skin. He remembered lingering over the shot taken of her outside on the front stoop of her brownstone, the steam wafting up from her coffee in the chill morning air. The low angle of the morning light seemed to render the white gown she wore diaphanous, revealing far more of her figure than he knew she’d have liked.
He’d taken special care to memorize that photo.
Now, as the truck bounced over the pothole-ridden streets of the city, he watched her again. It made her uneasy, his gaze upon her. He found he liked that. Her eyes, like doe’s eyes, darted to him frequently, as if by keeping him in her sight she was reassuring herself all was well.
It certainly wasn’t, but she didn’t need to know that. Not yet, anyway. “You forgot something,” he said, nodding toward her. “Probably forgot all kinds of things.” She glared at him, her eyes squinting against the sunshine
“Probably forgot all kinds of things.” She glared at him, her eyes squinting against the sunshine
pouring through the windshield. “Which wouldn’t have been an issue had you let me, I don’t know, pack.”
Ah, yes, beautiful she may be — but that mouth.
“Try again, Ms. Cross.”
She looked out the window, jabbing a thumb at the unmarked in the next lane. “We certainly didn’t forget them. Like a goddamned motorcade. Very subtle.”
“What?” Her hand reached up automatically for it, then she stopped herself. “You’re serious with this?”
“Put it on.”
Those big brown eyes stared back, her jaw tight. One of the tires dropped into a pothole large enough to swallow a man, her breasts moving with the jarring bounce of the truck. She winced, cursing under her breath, her gaze sliding away.
It was shaping up to be a long trip. “Seatbelt, Ms. Cross.” “Are you my bodyguard, or my dad?” He scanned ahead for an open stretch of curb, finding a loading zone for a busy restaurant supply
business. It would do. “What are you doing?”
Lake pulled the truck to the curb, the cruisers slowing to a crawl as horns blared from the cars behind them. One of the cruisers flashed his blues, waving the cars around him even as his puzzled white face peered over at their truck.
“Let’s get this out of the way now.” He leaned over her, and she shrank into the seat, her lips a surprised O. “I’m here to keep you safe, to get you to your new home.” His hand caught the belt, whipping it out and around, seating the latch with a loud click. She inhaled sharply as he pulled up, cinching it tight, the shoulder belt snug between her breasts. “And I can’t very well keep you safe if you die in a car wreck, can I?”
“I don’t wear—”
“You didn’t before, but you do now, Ms. Cross. This is a new life, a new start.” He flashed her a grin, then pulled back onto the road, squeezing the big pickup between the two waiting cruisers.
“I can’t believe this. This is a fucking nightmare.” She flashed him a withering look. “I don’t care what you think, Mr... whoever you are.”
“Lake.” She frowned. “Lake, then. I don’t wear seat belts.” “Never too late to start doing the right thing.” You could try taking your own advice, for once. But it was much too late for that. Much too late for anything at all. His earpiece crackled to life. “Everything okay in there?” Tucking the cord fully behind his ear, he smiled over at the cruiser next to them. “We’re good.” The detail had insisted on the radio, though he detested it, knowing how easy it was to pick up a
signal from outside. It was pointless, and sloppy, but he needed to play nice for now. The two officers were more of a help than a hindrance at this point anyway, especially in getting them through the god- awful upper Manhattan traffic. Once they’d gotten closer to their destination, he’d have more options, wouldn’t be so penned in. But that was still many hours away.
He glanced back over at her. She’d crossed her arms over those little jiggling breasts of hers, her head turned away. “Did the officers brief you on what’s going to happen today?”
“They did all that at the sentencing for Daddy,” she muttered, still looking out the window. “Said I wouldn’t know when they were coming, but when they did, I’d have minutes to pack up. They never said anything about you though.”
“Your father added that little detail at the last minute when there were... developments.” Her brown eyes turned to him then. “Developments?” Traffic came to a standstill, the distant sound of horns blaring somewhere up ahead. He sighed,
drumming fingers on the steering wheel. “Well, are you going to spill what the hell you mean by ‘developments’? Nothing good, I’m
sure.” “Your father received several threats.” “Nothing new there.” She grunted. “Pricks can’t get to him, and it’s killing them. He told me all
Oh, if only you knew, Ms. Cross.
That wasn’t his problem though. He had a job to do first. And then that was it — no more tours, no more missions, no more contracts. No more. Then he could face what life he had left.
“This is something else. Something new.” The earpiece clicked on once more. “Something’s up, looks like. Let me check it.” The channel went dead a moment, then the officer was back on. “Water main break about ten
blocks north. Christ.” Lake hated these wrinkles, these little challenges fate and random chance always threw in the
way on missions. He didn’t like fate or chance — both could get you killed just as dead. “How long?” He knew the answer before the radio crackled in his ear. “Hours. Traffic’s a mess on the whole upper west side. We’ll get you out another route.” “What’s going on?” she murmured as the officers flipped on their lights and strobes, their sirens
blaring their staccato warning tones as the cruisers picked their way through the slowly moving cars. “Stay on my ass,” the patrolman said in Lake’s ear. “Looks like we’re going on a little detour.” Lake kept his tone light. “It’s nothing.” Her gaze moved from the cruisers, then back to him, the quick movement of her eyes betraying
her fear. It was an absurd time to think it, but he rather liked that look in her eyes. Not now, Lake. Just get this over with. As their little convoy snaked through the traffic-snarled streets of New York, he ran over the plan
for the next few hours in his mind once again. So much could still go wrong, so much should go wrong — but he knew it wouldn’t.
Hit the marks, Lake. Timing. Timing. Timing.
His employer knew what he was doing hiring the company. Lake would perform this last mission, this last task, and he’d do it well — no matter how unpleasant, even wrong, it might be. Right and wrong weren’t part of this equation. Only the mission, the job, mattered now.
He’d fulfill his contract, and then he’d be done. For good.